Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Grime is Washed Away

Another laundry day has come and gone, and I am praising Jesus that my hands are holding up better than they did for the first several weeks that we were here in Kenya. Now I can make it through a washing session without broken skin, raw knuckles, or bleeding wounds. Great rejoicing over this not-so-insignificant fact. But today as I was scrubbing the clothes, somehow a great wave of satisfaction came over me.

While I would not readily choose to do laundry by hand for the rest of my days, I am finding something so very cathartic about sitting out under the sun, scrubbing the clothes for my family. I see the dirt and stains with which the scrubbing begins, and as my hands work the fabric, suds of cleansing water washing the grime away, the sweat of my brow seeing the reward of its effort. As the final product hangs on the line to dry, made new by the grease of my own elbows, restored to what it was made to be, I feel great pride and satisfaction to know what I have done.

I know it may sound simple, but the African dirt has coated these clothes well as my girls run and jump and play with no hindrance at all for the stains that they are setting in. When all the clothes from a bucket have been washed and moved to a bucket of clean water for rinsing, I see the extent of the filth. The water is grey-brown, thick, cloudy, murky. It is full of grime that my hands scrubbed out. As I dump the bucket out, there is great joy in knowing that it has all been washed away, that all that was once covered in filth is now clean and sparkling, like new again. There is such joy in my heart at this simple realization.

And then I begin to wonder if this is just a glimpse at how God feels as He washes us white as snow. He knows our filth. He knows our grime. He knows the deepest, darkest recesses of our hearts, and He does the hard work to wash us clean. He puts in the elbow grease, He wages war on our behalf, and He asks us to trust Him as he twists and scrubs us in His massive, powerful, yet ever-gentle hands. I just wonder if this is just a small peek into how He revels over us.

For much of my life, I struggled with this idea of such hopeless, helpless brokenness. Maybe it was my pride getting in the way of truly understanding, or maybe I had just heard for far too long what a reckless sinner I was. I knew I was a sinner. I knew I was broken. I knew that I was a mess. And my ears heard the Church reminding me of that over and over and over again; until all I could think was, "What's the point, then? If I'm such a horrible human being, I can never live up to be any good for anything, what's the point of doing the "good" thing?"

I would then hear the inevitable follow-up of how God loves me anyway. He loves me anyway. So, I'm not really lovable, not really worthy of love because I am such a reckless sinner. Because I am such a sinner, I don't deserve love, but instead deserve to hang on a cross. I deserve death, but He loves me anyway.

Well isn't that big of Him.


Any sense of dignity has just been beaten down and ripped to shreds, but telling me that He loves me anyway is supposed to pick me back up again. Great.

The problem is that there were some true things that were being said, some true things that my ears were hearing, and some true things that my heart was taking in. But they were not all truth. They were not all Truth.

Yes, I am a sinner. No, I am not unloveable.

Yes, I am broken. No, I am not hopeless.

Yes, I am a mess. No, I am not undeserving of love.

Yes, I do fall short of the glory of God. No, I am not to loathe myself for it.

Many times, my ears would absorb a teaching, receive it as a condemnation, and then continue to condemn self for it. So where I was told that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for some reason that wasn't enough to cover all the other condemning things that had already been taken in. And so they became chains around my ankles, shackles on my wrists, bounding my heart in lies that were set on repeat in my head.

You will never be good enough for love.

You can never live up to this standard, so why bother? Just give up. You're not worth the trouble.

Somehow, the fact that I was a sinner translated into God hating me. But His Word doesn't say that. His Word says this:

The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you.
He will quiet you with his love.
He will rejoice over you with singing.

And again it says:

He will cover you with his feathers 
and under his wings you will find refuge; 
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Those are not the words of an angry father who is counting up how many times he has to bail us out. Those are the words of a lover, of one who rejoices when we are free and joyful, and one who rejoices when we surrender ourselves to Him to be our shield and our rampart.

And so I just wonder, as He dips us into the water and scrubs away the dirt and filth that has built up on our backs, if He doesn't take great joy in the process, knowing how beautiful the end result will be, knowing that even in the midst of the grime and muck, there is already beauty, because He made it so. And though the process might be a bit painful at times, humbling to have this stain scrubbed away, hurting to see Him toil so on our behalf, the process of surrendering to His cleansing ways is so freeing.

And I believe He takes great joy in it all, as he watches the murky, filthy water washed away from that which He created to shine.

I believe He will rejoice over it with singing, because that's what His Word says.

And so I will not hang my head in shame, as there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, but I will rejoice over His love with great singing as I return it back to Him.

Happy Sabbath, friends. Praying for God's peace and grace to fill you to overflowing today.


  1. If I wasn't at work while reading this, I would be crying a river right now. This touched my heart in ways that you could not have known it would while writing it (or maybe you did, you are pretty amazing). I do not possess the courage to reveal all my secrets here, in such a public forum. However, I wanted you to know that while you are so many, many miles away the message of your writings really impacted me- shook me almost- at the very least they definitely sparked an ember in my heart to continue searching and moving forward although I have recently felt that I may not be good enough to continue the journey. Thank you my gracious, loving friend.

  2. shauna, this is truly a great message. i met a beloved girlfriend when visiting my hometown a few weeks ago. she is my soulsister and i seriously believe she was put on this earth to edify and encourage me. one of the things she graced me with was a message from her pastor. she said when she first heard it she felt a tickle, like, "do i really believe this?" but then she let it sink deep.
    he said: jesus didn't die on the cross for our sins. he died because he loves us.
    he continues: think of a father out playing ball w/ his child in the yard, and the child has been instructed over and over and over not to run into the street for any reason ever. and as they are playing te ball tumbles to the street, and the child runs after, but almost simultaneously a car is coming and will hit the child. so the father does the only thing he can: he runs out after, but of course he is killed. the child grows up thinking, "how awful am i. my father was killed b/cs i disobeyed him."
    what a difference if she thought: my father died b/cs he loves me and protected me. how much he truly cares about me.
    the walk away in those two theologies is humbling, isn't it?!!?
    i'm not able to reply to your comments on my blog b/cs your email isn't listed somehow, but i wanted to say how much i appreciate them! (i'm still trying to figure out if i want threaded comments on my blog, but that would certainly fix the problem of not being able to reply!)


Thoughts? Feel welcome to share...